Sam Shephard is an experienced German Shepherd owner and has learned throughout the years how to optimize the breed's health and wellness.
German Shepherds are some of the most intelligent dogs in the world, and they are very popular for work as police dogs and search and rescue dogs. They are also known to be highly loyal and obedient when trained well.
Despite these characteristics, German Shepherds are some of the most common dogs to be in need of rescue. Their intelligence, self-confidence, and high level of energy can make them too much to handle for some owners, leading many to end up in shelters and specialized German Shepherd rescue centers.
However, if you’re familiar with this breed or have taken the time to learn about them, and you’re committed to giving them the time and energy they need, rescuing a German Shepherd may be a fantastic option for you. To learn all about these dogs and German Shepherd rescue, keep reading.
A Brief History of the Breed
German Shepherds were first bred in Germany beginning in the 1890s. The first man to breed them, Max von Stephanitz, wanted to create the perfect working dog with strong intelligence, loyalty, and an attractive form. He based these traits primarily on the very capable sheepdogs of Germany.
Today, the breed's qualities still make them popular as working dogs:
- They are particularly popular with the police and army.
- They have a very strong sense of smell and are therefore very good at scout duty, search and rescue, and explosives and narcotics searching.
- They are still sometimes used to herd sheep and guard fields.
These are large dogs and stand at an average height of 55-65 cm and weigh up to 40 kilograms. The most common coat color pattern is tan with a black mask and saddle-like pattern. Black and white German Shepherds, as well as a long-hair variation, are also fairly common and may be available for rescue. These dogs are known for their distinctively large, upright ears and long, bushy tails.
Temperament Is Relevant
If you are thinking about rescuing a German Shepherd or adopting a puppy, you will need to be aware of the typical Alsatian temperament. These are highly intelligent and active dogs. This can make them great companions and very rewarding to own, but it also requires a commitment of time and energy to train them properly.
Most German Shepherds, because they are so intelligent, need to stay stimulated. This means providing them with toys, tasks, and (most importantly) frequent interaction. They are not good dogs to be left alone in the yard or house most of the day. They need to be around people and interacting frequently. Their intelligence also means that they can be trained to perform very impressive tasks. They can, however, be a bit stubborn, so training will take time and consistent effort.
Most owners will want to take their dogs to obedience training. They are also typically very high-energy, athletic dogs. You’ll need to be prepared to play fetch, play in the yard, and go for walks every day; they also tend to make great running partners. If you have the time and energy for all these things, you’ll probably love your rescue.
The Process of Rescuing a German Shepherd
If you’ve decided to rescue a German Shepherd, there are a number of steps you need to take that are a bit different from adopting a puppy from a breeder. Your local animal shelter may have these dogs available for rescue. There are also a number of regional German Shepherd rescue organizations. Try doing a search to see what might be available close to you.
The next step is to visit the rescue center and spend some time with the dog. Keep in mind that this breed, unlike Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, may not be immediately friendly and affectionate towards strangers. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be loving once they’ve gotten to know you. If you can, observe the dog with a trainer they know well to get a better idea of how they’ll act around you.
Once you’ve chosen a dog, you’ll need to submit an application. Many German Shepherd rescue centers also require you to submit references and complete a home visit. If you are accepted, you’ll need to pay an adoption fee. After that, you’ll be ready to take your new dog home.
If you are unsure, don't take the dog home and sleep a couple of nights on it. Having a dog costs money (food, toys and vet appointments) and you need to make time to do activities together. Ask the rescue about pre-existing medical conditions, when in doubt you can always ask an independent vet for an additional check-up.
Although some rescues guarantee you can bring the dog back within one month no questions asked, it is very unlikely you'll bring a sick dog back once you've bonded. The medical costs for a German Shepherd with a chronic disease can be high and pre-existing conditions are often excluded from insurance. Most rescues in my country in Europe are trustworthy and certified.
Steps to Take After Adoption
Once you have adopted your German Shepherd, it’s normal to have an adjustment period. Depending on the dog and your home, this can take anywhere between a couple of days and a couple of months. Moving to a new home means a lot of changes for your new dog, and it will take some time for him or her to adjust and learn to trust you.
During this period (and afterward), it’s important to establish a good relationship with your dog. German Shepherds need at least one person in the house to be a strong leader. With a strong leadership relationship, your dog will become loyal, friendly, loving, and obedient. Without control, they can become headstrong and disobedient. It’s important to stay calm and confident with the dog and consistently enforce training rules.
Dogs can sense confidence, and this breed, in particular, will respond well to it—respecting the human leader as, in a sense, the alpha of the pack. Being firm and confident will allow your new friend to bond with you in a relationship that is built on respect and trust.
© 2019 Sam Shepards
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on September 06, 2020:
Hi, thank you for your story. I'm sorry I can't help with addresses or advice. Since I don't have experience with US breeders, rescues, and the like. I would say, since you already have experience and seem to be a well caring person. Find some addresses, maybe on US forums, groups and then go with your gut feeling/instinct about making a good choice.
Lourdesb61 on September 03, 2020:
I live in NC in the US. We had a German Shepard about 12 years ago. She was a wonderful, loving, 91 lbs. of solid muscle. She was an amazing addition to our family. Sasha was a 5 year cancer survivor and crossed the rainbow bridga at the age of 14. I rescued a small dog after that, as I was accustomed to having a dog in my home. I have now had a home without a dog for over a year and i would love to adopt a GSD. Do you have any suggestions?
Sam Shepards (author) from Europe on June 28, 2019:
Yes, this one was written with you in mind. The only problem is that I don't live in the US, so it's difficult to really know the rescue field there. Most advice I give is universal I hope. Behavioral and possible medical preconditions should be your main concern.
Greetings and have a nice weekend!
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 28, 2019:
Great, thank you for this. Perhaps I could not afford large bills. I have to think on that. The interaction and time spent is not an issue. A good guide for me.